Spice up your Health: Ingredients that Enhance both Flavor and Health

02.01.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

AP Photo

By Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN; Redskins Team Nutritionist

In last week's post, we discussed the importance of reducing salt in our diet. I mentioned that salt often serves as a flavor enhancer to our food, which may also be why it can be so difficult for some of us to reduce it in our diet! Many of my clients struggle to reduce the salt in their diet because they admit food can taste bland without salt.

I am a huge believer that food should be enjoyed and savored. Food is truly one of the pleasures in life and my love for food was the reason I became a dietitian! So, I take it seriously when my clients aren’t enjoying the foods they eat.

When a food or an ingredient, such as salt, needs to be reduced in a client's diet, my job as a dietitian is to help them replace it with something more health enhancing, but still delicious. Luckily, replacing salt is one of the easier ingredients to do this with!

There are many flavor enhancers that not only enhance the flavor of food but also provide health-enhancing properties. Here are just a few:

- Lowers total cholesterol while raising HDL
- Anti-inflammatory
- Anti-clotting
- Boosts immunity
- Destroys cancer cells
- May disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells

Let garlic sit for 10-15 min. after chopping and before cooking so the active form of the protective Phytochemicals develops," says Karen Collins, RD, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Sauté fresh garlic over low heat and mix with pasta, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese. Yum!

- Acts as an antioxidant
- Anti-inflammatory
- Boosts immunity
- Antimicrobial
- Helps manage nausea

Used in Asian-style cuisine, especially Thai. Use in marinades and chutneys. Enjoy ginger flavored tea for a daily dose of this spice. Click here for summary of research using ginger.

- Good source of magnesium
- Antioxidant
- Anti-inflammatory
- Antimicrobial

Pesto is the main stage for basil but you can also add to marinara sauce, salads and sprinkle on tomato slices to add a little spice to these dishes. Click here to learn more about this multifaceted herb.



- Antioxidant
- Anti-inflammatory
- Aids in circulation and blood flow
- Reduces severity of asthma attacks

Add to rice for a splash of flavor, use in place of butter or margarine on bread - just puree fresh Rosemary with olive oil and dip away! For more info on this all star herb, click here.


- Anti-inflammatory
- Antioxidant
- Lowers cholesterol
- Assists the liver’s ability to detoxify
- Reduces symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Reduces symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- May offer protection against Alzheimer’s
- Strong evidence as protection against major forms of cancers including colon, breast, lung and prostate cancer

Used most traditionally in curries and Indian style cuisine. Add to lentil dishes and salad dressings. For more info on this powerhouse, click here.

Fresh herbs and spices are recommended over supplement forms. Because of the medicinal properties of spices and herbs, it is always a good idea to report increase use of such to your physician. Increase use of herbs and spices may require adjustment to your medication and/or special instructions for post-op preparations.

I hope this chart has motivated you as much as it has motivated me to get back into the kitchen and whip up some health enhancing dishes.

Enjoy and have fun!

I’d love to hear from WOW readers how they use herbs and spices to enhance the flavor and health of their favorite recipes. Leave your comments below!

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